This article was updated at 6:45 p.m. to include additional information about rallies planned outside the courthouse.
Plaintiffs opposing Montgomery County Public Schools’ LGBTQ+ inclusive curriculum requirement will make the case Wednesday for an injunction allowing families to opt out of the curriculum now—months or perhaps even years before their case would be resolved.
Advocates on both sides are expected to turn up for the hearing scheduled for 10 a.m. in the U.S. District Courthouse in Greenbelt. Judge Deborah Boardman will hear oral arguments on the plaintiffs’ preliminary motion for injunction. If granted, an injunction would require the school district to honor parents’ requests for opt-out accommodations until the case is resolved. According to court records, the case has not yet been scheduled for trial.
The lawsuit stems from a controversy over the school district’s decision not to provide prior notice or allow parents to have their students removed from the classroom when an LGBTQ+ inclusive storybook is utilized. The policy was first clarified publicly in March, and three MCPS families filed a lawsuit against the school board and superintendent in May.
Over the summer, Muslim and Christian families rallied outside school board headquarters, presented testimony to the board and circulated petitions demanding the district reinstate the opt-out accommodation. Other parents, students and officials have vocalized their support for the school district’s approach to its inclusive curriculum, and a petition of support has garnered over 3,000 signatures since June 16.
MCPS officials have consistently declined to comment on the pending litigation. Legal filings in the case show the school district claiming the volume of opt-out requests had grown voluminous enough to cause “significant disruptions” in schools, but a recent Maryland Public Information Act requested filed by MoCo360 found the district cannot quantify that number. Recently-published internal school documents show some elementary school principals expressing concern about the books’ rollout months before the opt-out controversy.
Plaintiffs in the suit are represented by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, a Washington, D.C.-based law firm specializing in religious freedom. The school-affiliated defendants are represented by WilmerHale, an international firm employing over 1,000 attorneys worldwide.
Several groups for and against the opt-out are encouraging residents to attend the hearing. Attorneys for the plaintiffs announced a rally at 8 a.m. in the courthouse parking lot, and in its Aug. 7 newsletter the county’s Republican Party promoted an 8 a.m. “silent rally” outside the courthouse also in support of the opt-out.
Via social media, the Metro D.C. chapter of PFLAG—an LGBTQ+ affirming parent advocacy group—encouraged residents to attend the hearing wearing purple to show support for the school district’s inclusive curriculum. The Coalition for Inclusive Schools and Communities, a cohort of local residents in support of the MCPS book policies, is also planning an 8 a.m. rally. Another advocacy group called Muslims for Progressive Values encouraged its social media followers to gather outside the courthouse at 8:30 for a similar rally.
On behalf of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR)—one of several organizers behind the pro-opt-out efforts—regional director Zainab Chaudry told MoCo360 in an email Monday she plans to attend Wednesday’s hearing in support of the plaintiffs, but she said CAIR is not planning any rallies at the courthouse and is not affiliated with the litigation.
Following the hearing, an MCPS attorney has said it’s possible Boardman would issue her ruling on the motion before the new school year kicks off Aug. 28.
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